With summer over and the fall semester officially underway, my internship has come to a close. It took slightly longer than expected to wrap my project up, but I’m glad that we took the extra time to ensure it is a finished product; my paper is now complete and is in the final editing stage.
Looking back on my internship, it was obviously much different than expected. However, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it was a unique experience that was rewarding in its own way. I gained a solid understanding of the field of state recognition and developed a working familiarity with the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and Balkan issues more generally. This year has put a lot of things in perspective and, given the circumstances, I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity. I am very thankful to both Democracy for Development and the international internship program at William & Mary for making it work.
As for Kosovo itself, a new meeting has been scheduled between Kosovo and Serbia to take place at the White House on September 4th. The meeting was announced by the US Special Envoy to the dialogue, Richard Grenell, who had previously arranged for the two sides to meet in June. That plan fell through after Kosovo’s representative to the talks, Hashim Thaci, was indicted for war crimes dating back to his involvement in the Kosovo Liberation Army. The dialogue instead resumed in Brussels, where Kosovo Prime Minister Abdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, despite some rhetorical sparring, appeared to tentatively agree to work towards a process through which both sides would help the other to account for missing persons displaced by the 1990s conflict.
While it is unclear exactly what the focus of the upcoming White House talks will be, Grenell has previously stated that he sees a solution materializing through a two-step process in which the dialogue is divided into separate political and economic discussions. The EU has been critical of Grenell’s approach and would prefer to mediate the dialogue from Brussels. This tension between the EU and US, as well as the domestic disagreement in Kosovo surrounding Hoti’s role as Kosovo’s primary representative, is one of the many factors complicating the current situation. This turbulence is emblematic of the seeming intractability of the dispute – if the parties committed to overseeing the dialogue insist on competing and cannot provide a sturdy foundation for the dialogue, it seems unlikely that the substantive issues driving the dispute will be resolved or even genuinely addressed.
A discussion of the current stalemate features prominently in my paper and is perhaps my biggest take away from the internship. There are so many dynamic issues involving so many different actors that must be stabilized before Serbia and Kosovo can genuinely discuss a comprehensive agreement. The focus on these issues, while important, often seems to distract from the efforts towards meaningful dialogue. I know I will be following closely and will be very interested to see how the situation develops in the future. With that, I will wrap up the blog. I hope these posts were informative and provided some insight into how a remote, international internship can be conducted.